Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Why is Epstein's jacket all knotted up?

Remember the episode where this happened? No, you don't. There wasn't one.

Mystery girl Starlee Kine
Leave it to me to arrive at the depot after the train has already left. This week, I more or less accidentally discovered a marvelous new-ish podcast called Mystery Show, hosted by This American Life's ever-delightful Starlee Kine. (Her breakup story, entitled "Doctor Phil," is one of my favorite TAL pieces of all time.) Kine's new show, as the title might indicate, is devoted to solving mysteries. But these aren't true crime stories (murders, disappearances, etc.), and they aren't the great secrets of life and the universe (what killed the dinosaurs, does God exist). At least not yet.

 As of now, the show has gotten to the bottom of smaller, quirkier mysteries. An author, for instance, wanted to know why one of her unsuccessful books somehow wound up being toted around by Britney Spears. Another woman wanted to know the fate of a little video store which seemed to disappear overnight. One man wanted to know the origin of a novelty, custom-made belt buckle with a built-in miniature toaster.

And then there was, for me, the most intriguing of them all: Why did Aladdin Industries' Welcome Back, Kotter lunchbox from 1977 depict a scene in which Barbarino and Epstein seem to be fighting over a knotted-up jean jacket, since no such scene ever occurred on the program? Starlee Kine answers all of these queries with a surprising amount of compassion and detail.

All episodes of the podcast can be found here at the show's website. I blew through all six episodes in about a day and a half. The trouble is, by the time I finally found Mystery Show, its first season was already over. I don't know when Season Two is starting, but Kine insists that there are more mysteries in her future. I hope so.